by Sarah Ansari-Manea and Chuck Black
|Walter Heikkila and Sid Penstone in 1960. Photo c/o NRC.
It’s well known that Canadian space activities predate the 1989 formation of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) but its less well known that the history of those early years was mostly a history of the Communications Research Centre (CRC), the government department responsible for most of Canada’s early satellite launches.
Since 1994, this early history has come together into a fascinating window on post World War II Canadian science at the Friends of the CRC website.
The site, with its vast repertoire of Canadian space history curated and written by many of the same individuals who experienced it first hand, provides an unmatched look at some of the greatest early Canadian scientific accomplishments.
These include the Allouette satellite program
, the Anik B pilot projects
, the Telidon
program (which from 1978 to 1985 served as the original Canadian internet), Hermes
(an experimental satellite built to test early concepts for communications satellites), the development of which eventually became the Black Brant sounding rockets
and even preliminary research into what became the first satellite based search and rescue systems.
Authors include J.N Barry (who begins his article on “Doppler Navigator Development” by referencing his first meeting in 1953 with other program participants), Bert Blevis (“The Pursuit of Equality: The Role of the Ionosphere and Satellite Communications in Canadian Development“), Leroy Nelms (DRTE and Canada’s Leap into Space: The Early Canadian Satellite Program“) and Gerald E. Poaps (who became the ninth member of the Radio Propagation Laboratory, the antecedent of the CRC, in 1947 and wrote about it under the title “Gerald Poaps’ Scrapbook“).
In essence, the website is a gold mine of first hand Canadian history generally lost to the public and well worth multiple viewings.
By checking it out, we help to preserve one of our few remaining links to our missing Canadian space history and past scientific accomplishments.
It’s the REAL, “secret space” program.
Sarah Ansari-Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.
Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.